Authenticating valuable objects is widely assumed to involve protracted scrutiny for detection of reproduction flaws. Yet, accurate authentication of banknotes is possible within one second of viewing, suggesting that rapid neural processes may underpin counterfeit detection. To investigate, we measured event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in response to briefly viewed genuine or forensically recovered counterfeit banknotes presented in a visual oddball counterfeit detection task. Three ERP components, P1, P3, and extended P3, were assessed for each combination of banknote type (genuine, counterfeit) and overt response (“real”, “fake”). P1 amplitude was greater for oddballs, demonstrating that the initial feedforward sweep of visual processing yields the essential information for differentiating genuine from counterfeit. A similar oddball effect was found for P3. The magnitude of this P3 effect was positively correlated with behavioural counterfeit sensitivity, although the corresponding correlation for P1 was not. For the extended P3, amplitude was greatest for correctly detected counterfeits and similarly small for missed counterfeits, incorrectly and correctly categorised genuine banknotes. These results show that authentication of complex stimuli involves a cascade of neural processes that unfolds in under a second, beginning with a very rapid sensory analysis, followed by a later decision stage requiring higher level processing.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, The Reserve Bank of Australia and US Federal Reserve Bank.
© 2022, The Author(s).
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